Ten Behaviors to Avoid if You Crave a Raise or Promotion

Do you ever wonder why loyal and competent employees get fired? Here's why.

Posted Apr 04, 2019

Slidebot/used with permisson
Source: Slidebot/used with permission

Most people want to climb the corporate ladder.  If a different job is not on your radar, you likely want to earn more money.  Unfortunately, in the betterment quest, many well-intentioned individuals unconsciously sabotage their chances for a juicy raise or a job with more challenge and growth. These self-inflicted limitations to success often happen because habitual behavior on our part may be perceived negatively by decision makers and especially your boss. While following the strategies below won’t earn you a promotion or raise, these behaviors won’t stand in the way of being considered for a job with greater influence, additional income, and more value to your organization.

Never complain about other employees. While coworkers should always discuss how to improve their organization or a business process, complaining about colleagues may alienate you from others, including a current or prospective boss. Even if you know who is responsible for an issue, focus on the work challenge and not the person who is or should be held accountable for the problem.  Being labeled a tattletale is often seen as a character flaw.

Don’t be a know-it-all. One sure-fire way to kill a career is by starting a new job or being elevated to a new position and suddenly becoming a know-it-all, a veritable sage of wisdom.  Learning the nuances of a new company or a different job often takes a minimum of a year to experience the entire work cycle.  If you think you have a better way, keep it to yourself until you are asked, as opposed to immediately suggesting radical changes when you start a new position or take on additional responsibilities.

Slidebot/used with permission
Source: Slidebot/used with permission

Avoid misrepresentation. For some people, the go-to response when a mistake is made is to disavow knowledge of the situation or offer selective information upon questioning.  While taking blame can be a short-term blemish on your record, providing filtered information or lying when asked about problem details may get you a quick boot out the door.  Everyone makes mistakes; thus, it is always better to admit your faults and learn from the experience than to suggest your blatant innocence.

Refrain from publicly bad-mouthing the company. All business cultures have normative behaviors or policies that may clash with your personal ideology.  Private disagreement about company practices with trusted family and friends is fine but beware of public discussions.  One of my favorite recruiting strategies is to go to a local bar or restaurant near a company location at quitting time.  I invariably hear disenchanted employees complaining about their company.  No one knows who I am or why I am there, but the consequences of being overheard by the wrong person can be devastating!

Don’t be a “Yes” person. Progressive leaders realize that part of their job is encouraging open and honest feedback from subordinates.  The best leaders want to know your opinions, even when disclosure means telling the boss that they are off-base or misinformed.  If you go along with every decision the boss makes you may endow mistrust from your coworkers, but you also may be perceived by your supervisor as someone who is more interested in flattery than constructive improvement.  

Monitor personal innovation. Yes, it great to show individualism and creativity, but common-sense dictates that you don’t want to be a company standout for the wrong reason.  The most successful individuals in an organization are those who consider and embrace the company culture.  Innovation is often encouraged, but actively monitor what types of thoughts and behaviors are appropriate for your SPECIFIC company before launching a unique proposal.

Slidebot/used with permission
Source: Slidebot/used with permission

Avoid shopping for answers. Let’s be realistic, every idea you propose and every request you make won’t be approved.  If it gets back to your boss that you have been shopping around in your company for a more desirable answer, your quest for approval may quickly come back to haunt you.  If you propose an idea that is rejected, do not try to repackage it and repeat a similar action.  As the lady in the Chinese restaurant once told me, “Pick battles big enough to matter, but small enough to win!”

Don’t email your boss several times on the same subject. Receiving multiple emails on the same topic can be highly irritating for busy people.  One of the biggest challenges for leaders is prioritizing how to devote their time.  Realize that a delay in response may not signify the value of your request, but merely mean the recipient is busy or is devoting their time to more pressing issues.  Instead, consider making a verbal request in-person or by phone such as “did you see my email?”

Avoid intimate work relationships. While it may seem obvious to some, your company is not paying you to socialize.  Coworker comradery is important but be aware of where to draw the line.  Spending your time gossiping with coworkers when you should be working may irritate those around you and prompt complaints.  Romantic relationships are more troublesome, because despite your best judgment the relationship may make others uncomfortable or imply your inability to make impartial decisions.

Slidebot/used with permission
Source: Slidebot/used with permission

Don’t prioritize time off. Everyone deserves paid time off, but how you make the leave request can send strong signals to your boss about priorities.  Before voicing a request, anticipate your boss’s reaction.  Think in advance what work might need attention during your absence.  Keep in mind that people often get fired when others fill in for them during vacation. Your absence is a perfect time to assess if your job is being done correctly, or if critical tasks have been botched or neglected. 

Is this a complete list of workplace behaviors you should avoid?  Absolutely, not. People get fired for many other reasons.  However, taking a proactive approach to guiding your career typically returns the greatest rewards.  Based on the company culture, always try to anticipate in advance how your behaviors will be judged.  Whenever in doubt, assess what is valued by the organization and consider alternatives that may be more beneficial for your career.